There's been an amazing amount of reactionary rhetoric flung around -- if I were Kathryn I'd be furious, and hell, I'm somewhat furious even as me.
What a lot of people don't seem to get, when they say bringing your kids to cons is unprofessional, is that sf cons are, by their nature, unprofessional. They're a bizarre phenomenon that's grown up organically, originally as a fannish activity (and entirely optional for its participants) that has become an arguably essential and certainly highly significant aspect of a professional genre writing/editing/publishing career.
Because conventions grew up out of fan activities, they're designed for fans' convenience. Activities at all hours of the day and night, social events in smoky bars, hours-long ceremonies in the evening. And if you're a fan attending a con, well, you're there for fun, so a) it's not unreasonable to tell you that if you can't find adequate child-care in some other fashion, maybe you should sit the con out this year and the next. And b) the activities you participate in at the con are optional ones, year after year. If you miss the Masquerade this year, you can see it next year. If you have small kids at the moment, well, you probably shouldn't volunteer to be in charge of highly-stressful convention activities that would require a lot of your time. You can do that volunteering later.
But that's all for fans (the people sf cons were designed for). The situation for professionals working in the field is entirely different.
If your professional responsibilites require that you go to WorldCon, to World Fantasy, and to a host of smaller conventions, then it is to the benefit of all the con-goers that you be assisted with your childcare so that you can participate in a sane and productive manner. Odds are that as a professional, you've been courted by the convention -- they may well have offered you money in some form to come to their convention, presumably because they believe that your participation will be of benefit to all the con-goers (who are mostly fans). If you work for a large corporation (like Tor), then they should certainly put some money into the child-care costs for your convention attendance. But the convention is also a business (albeit a small, non-profit one run by volunteers), and a business benefiting from your participation, and it behooves them to make sure you can participate well. And unless we want to go back to the days when "professional" meant "dad who effectively doesn't have children when it comes to the workplace", we need to redefine "professional" to mean "will at any given point include a significant (and changing) population of valuable people who should be ably assisted with their childcare needs, regardless of gender."
If that means adding $10 or $20 on to *my* non-childcare-needing membership, and spreading the bulk of the costs over the entire convention-attending population (which, presumably are the ones benefiting from the attendance of people like Kathryn), in order to hire a sufficient number of skilled and licensed child-care professionals, then I think that's certainly and obviously the correct way to go. I'm angry that there's even a question about it. This should be the default, people. Child-care at cons should be a priority item, and the default standards should be high, so that even small, volunteer-run cons realize way in advance that finding out their participants' child-care needs and budgeting accordingly is utterly essential. And there's no way they'll ever realize that if the bulk of us don't make an issue of it, don't shout about it, don't point to WisCon and say "There! There is the standard you should be aspiring to!"
Because whether you personally have young children or not, and whether you personally, if you were a working professional in the field, would choose to bring children to the convention or not (assuming in the first place that you had such a choice) -- whatever your personal situation and beliefs regarding parenting -- you have a vested interest in making sure that the professionals at the convention are aided and abetted in their efforts to give you the full benefit of their skills and experience. That the agents are free to be on panels and be available to young writers afterwards. That the editors can do the same, and attend the awards, and hell yes, schmooze in the bar, where writers can have a chance to talk to them and maybe sell them a story or two. That established writers can be available to talk to their fans, and that up-and-coming writers can have the opportunity to talk to and learn from each other, and to talk to the editors, and to talk to the agents.
All of that is good for the convention, and good for the field, and we should all make it a priority to give them the support they need so that they can do their jobs.
And hell -- if you're paying for the child-care anyway, then you might as well let all the fans use it too. They're an integral part of the convention as well, and their full participation will make it better for everyone.
Kathryn, I'm personally sorry for all the bullshit you've had to put up with. And I adore kids, and have many small cousins whom I've spent quite a lot of time baby-sitting. I'm not a professional, but if you're ever in a childcare jam at a convention I'm at, please feel free to call on me to assist. I've seen you in difficult situations at cons before, trying to manage your kids without adequate help, and I wish now that I'd just gone up to you and asked if you could use a hand. I guess I didn't want to intrude, since I don't know you all that well. I'll know better next time. And that offer extends to any of y'all who might need the help. If I'm not actually on a panel or in the midst of running a tea party, I can probably spare at least an hour to keep an eye on a kid and give you a break.